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The Rennes-le-Chateau Museum

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Rennes-le-Chateau Cemetery

Abbé Saunière's Calvary Cross

When the abbé Saunière created the church garden on the village square he erected a calvary, with a large wrought iron circular design at the top of the cross, from which shot out rays (long since disappeared). Also often called a sunburst, starburst or halo.

Although he inscribed "Mission 1891" on the Visigothic pillar, it was here on the Calvary cross where he should have placed it.

An inscription reads: CHRISTUS AB OMNI MALO PLEBEM SUAM DEFENDIT - a phrase meaning: ‘May Christ protect his people from all evil.

L'abbe Saunière finished the works on the church gardens in 1897 and on the 6th of June Monseigneur Billard, the Bishop of Carcassonne arrived in Rennes-le-Château on the occasion of the feast of Pentecost to inaugurate the gardens.

June Monseigneur Billard, the Bishop of Carcassonne

June Monseigneur Billard, the Bishop of Carcassonne

The commemorative plaque can still be seen on the Calvaire today.

Commemorative plaque on the Calvaire

Commemorative plaque on the Calvaire

 

In 1898 Billard was struck down by paralysis and died in 1901 whilst in the process of being suspended for 'having administered the assets of his diocese in the most irregular fashion...’

The original Calvary cross l'abbe Sauniere installed had a similar wrought iron 'sunburst or halo'. By the 1960's it had completed rusted away.

 

Left - Original Calvary Cross from 1907 and Right from 1979

The Jesus statue had also suffered damage and was replaced in the early 1990's and at the same time a new ornate sunburst was added. As you can by the images here the head now faces a slightly different angle. At the same time a mirror design was also added to the Mary statue opposite.

This is how the top of the Calvary Cross looks today

Rennes-le-Chateau Church Garden showing position of the Calvary Cross

 

Calvary Cross circa 1907 and 2010

The position of the stone pedestal and the large cross that form the centerpiece of the church garden, seems to have been important to l'abbe Saunière as he had it erected and broken down again twice, no doubt at considerable cost, and hard work for those doing the labour, before he was satisfied with the result we can see today.

What may be interesting to some is the shadow that falls on the wall of the Saristy containing the entrance to the secret room, beside the stain glass window of Jesus on the cross and which is not seen by the public visiting the church. Perhaps this is why Sauniere had the cross so tall and perhaps why he was so fussy with its placement.

Calvary Cross shadow

Calvary Cross shadow close-up

The Dalle des Chevaliers (the Knight’s Stone) which Sauniere had discovered lying face down on the floor of his church, was placed at the top of the steps leading up to Cross. A local villager, realizing its possible importance, had it removed so it would not suffer any more from the weather and people walking on it. However by this time it was already greatly worn. It is now on display in the Rennes-le-Chateau museum, though some say this is only a copy and the original resides in a museum in Carcassonne, though I have not yet been able to track it down.

1935 Rennes-le-Château photograph of the Knights Stone by the Calvary Cross before it was removed by M. Rougé. ( Photo - © Copyright André Galaup )

Calvary Cross Jesus 2010

 

Side view of the Calvary Cross

 

Side and Back View

Jesus Calvary Cross

Related Research Links:

Saunière's Bookmark - or was it?

Rennes-le-Chateau Cemetery

The Complete set of l’Abbé Saunière's 33 Postcards

33 Cartes Postale l’Abbé Saunière Album Digital eBook

 

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